Sept. 27, 2011
By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing
SEATTLE - Their pedigrees seemingly predestined them to become Huskies.
Their performances are making them increasingly prominent ones.
Redshirt freshmen Jamaal Kearse and Andrew Hudson will be the relatively unfamiliar numbers 58 and 93 in white on defense Saturday for Washington (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) in its 4:00 p.m. Pacific time game at Utah (2-1, 0-1) -- on ROOT Sports television locally, Fox Sports Network nationally, plus the Washington IMG College radio network and here on GoHuskies.com with the live game chat.
And if trends count for anything, they will be making plays against the Utes.
Kearse, the outside linebacker and younger brother of Huskies wide receiver and co-captain Jermaine Kearse, combined with Hudson at defensive end to stop a second-and-goal run by Cal 1 yard short of the goal line in the final seconds of last weekend's 31-23 win. That was one play after Kearse helped ruin a Bears pass play into the end zone.
It was his first and biggest of what he expects to be four seasons of impacting the Dawgs' defense in crunch time.
"When it was going on, I didn't have time to think about it. But once we stopped them I realized, `Hey, the game's over. We won!'" Kearse said after Tuesday's two-hour practice.
Kearse was an all-state free safety and receiver at Lakes High south of Tacoma, and a teammate and classmate there of current Huskies defensive tackle Sione Potoa'e.
Was Jermaine, who now lives one floor above his kid brother in the same off-campus apartment, being at UW the reason Jamaal is now a Husky?
"Not necessarily," the younger Kearse said. "He was part of the reason. I mean, it's always great to get to play with my brother. But it was the coaches. They were a main reason.
"And my dad was always a fan of the Huskies."
David Kearse died suddenly during Jamaal's freshman and Jermaine's senior years at Lakes. He was just 46.
"He would have wanted me to play here, with my brother," Jamaal said.
Kearse and Hudson, who went to East Valley High School in Redlands, Calif. - two years behind UW rushing star Chris Polk there -- were centerpieces to the Huskies' game-saving goal line stand against Cal because of injuries earlier in the game to John Timu and Hau'oli Jamora, respectively.
"I was extremely impressed," said coach Steve Sarkisian, who has made backing up promises of immediate opportunities a priority in his three seasons leading the Huskies. "You can't ask for more of those guys when you're in that situation. I thought they played with a lot of passion, a lot of energy, a lot of effort at that moment."
Kearse and Hudson are likely to stay in prominent roles Saturday.
Timu is iffy for the Utah game after he was driven from the field last weekend in an ambulance while strapped to a board. Hospital tests showed no structural or neurological damage, but Timu still has a sore neck that Sarkisian likens to whiplash. He didn't practice much on Tuesday.
Jamora, the Huskies' most accomplished pass rusher, was lost for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee when he fell awkwardly at the end of a second-quarter pass rush against Cal. His loss means senior Everrette Thompson moves back outside to one end more, after splitting his time at tackle. Josh Shirley, another redshirt freshman who got his most extended playing time last weekend, becomes the new No. 1 on the depth chart at the other end.
It also elevates Hudson to a rush end, especially when UW wants to move Thompson back in side for flexibility and athleticism across the defensive front.
"We need the next guy to step up when guys get hurt, and I think guys are starting to get that message," defensive line coach Johnny Nansen said.
Kearse, a 6-foot-2, 224-pound former free safety and wide receiver at Lakes High School in Lakewood, Wash., had never played linebacker before the Huskies switched him there during his redshirt year last season. Not in junior high. Not even in pee-wee ball. He was a quarterback then.
Earlier in the Cal game, Kearse had made two crunching hits on kickoff returns. Then, on first and goal for Cal at the UW 2 in the final minute, Kearse read a fake block by Cal's tight end and stayed with him on a delay route into the end zone to force an incomplete pass. On second and goal, Kearse and Hudson combined to stop Cal running back Isi Sofele 1 yard short of the goal line.
Another stop and an incomplete pass later, Washington won for the seventh time in eight games.
Hudson, at 6-3, 231, had been getting increased playing time in recent week as UW sought a more aggressive pass rush. Then Jamora went down.
Despite his inexperience, Hudson said he was relatively calm amid the roars of 60,000 in Husky Stadium during the decisive goal-line stand. He had learned from allowing himself to get caught in a "wow" moment earlier this month, when he looked around marveling that he was playing big-time college ball as a redshirt freshman.
That didn't go too well.
"For a second, yeah, I got starry like that -- and I wasn't ready when the ball came my way," he said.
Hudson and Kearse are the latest examples of UW's new depth and recent recruiting success.
Hudson was an all-section defensive lineman and standout heavyweight wrestler at Redlands East Valley High. That was two years after Polk had starred for REV, an hour east of Los Angeles along Interstate 10. Huskies redshirt senior Marquis Persley also went to East Valley.
But that wasn't necessarily why he chose UW.
"It was the coaches," Hudson said. "Coach Holt is a great coach. I really like his enthusiasm. It keeps me always playing physical football.
"Some of his, uh ... enthusiasm rubs off on me," Hudson said, smiling.
QUICK HITS: Cornerbacks coach Demetrice Martin confirmed what Sarkisian expected the previous day, that Greg Ducre has been cleared to return from a concussion he sustained against Cal. Ducre was wearing a red, no-contact jersey but practiced Tuesday, and he may start again at Utah. Ducre started the opener while Quinton Richardson recovered from a high ankle sprain he sustained last month. ... Martin thinks Richardson, who has started the last three games, still hasn't fully recovered from that injury. "But I'll take 80 percent of Quinton Richardson over a lot of cornerbacks," Martin said.